Nearly every supplement manufacturer has at least one product that it claims is the only thing you need to balance your horse’s diet and provide him with everything he needs in the right amount. Sounds simple. No more mathematical calculations. Just toss in an ounce or two of some all-purpose supplement and you’re done.
But can you really guarantee that your horse is getting the correct amounts of key amino acids, vitamins and minerals by feeding an equine One-A-Day product, regardless of the age and use of your horse’ Of course not. In fact, you may be just throwing your money out with the manure.
To show you what we mean, we’ll look at seven essential mineral levels in various hays and show you what happens when you add the recommended doses of some easily available commercial supplements to each of three different hays. The horse we’ll use for these examples is an 1,100-lb. adult, at maintenance, getting little or no grain.
The main reason no supplement can “do it all” is there’s just too much variation in the nutritional content of various hays and pastures. Supplement ads would lead you to believe hays basically fall into two categories — alfalfa (legume) or grass and that’s the end of it. Not quite. Not only are there vast differences between types of grass hay (e.g. timothy, orchardgrass, bermudagrass, oat, bluestem, etc.), but there’s also tremendous differences between even hays of the same type.
There really can’t be any top pick product here, because no single product can correctly balance every hay or pasture. However, four struck us as potential best performers: Pennwoods Equine Supreme Blue and Uckele’s Equi-Base in the concentrated mineral categories and Triple Crown 12 and TDI-10 in pelleted, high-mineral grain replacer category.
Pennwoods Equine Supreme was the only one of the four to provide enough selenium to adequately supplement all three of the hays used in our charts, but otherwise all four products were the only ones we believe brought the levels of individual minerals up into adequate amounts. None of the products could correct all the ratio imbalances, but the significance of this would depend on how far off the ratios were and, in the case of calcium:phosphorus, whether or not the diet contained adequate total phosphorus. Triple Crown 12 did the best job in terms of balancing the most ratios.
Where does this leave you as the owner of a horse on a totally or predominantly hay diet’
You have three basic options:
1. If hay supply remains unchanged for several months at a time, do a hay analysis, define your mineral needs and choose a supplement to match. It won’t necessarily be one of our picks.
2. If your hay supply changes frequently but is always the same type hay from the same general area, you may be able to obtain “average analysis” figures from your state university’s agriculture department. It can take a few phone calls to locate the right person, but it’s worth the effort. Start out by trying your local agriculture extension agent’s office or the state university department of agriculture.
3. If neither of these will work for your specific situation, go with one of our four effective products, or evaluate other options by these criteria (remember, these are only “ballpark” figures, and your actual needs will vary depending on hay type and amount consumed):
For pellet or powder mineral concentrates, fed at a rate of 4 oz./day, look for:
• Calcium 12 to 18%
• Phosphorus 6 to 8%
• Ca:P ratio 1.2:1 to 2:1
• Magnesium 1 to 8%
• Copper 925 to 1400 ppm
• Zinc 3700 to 3900 ppm
• Manganese 1200 to 2900 ppm
• Selenium 15 to 18 ppm (unless in a high-selenium area)
For pelleted grain replacer products, fed at 1+ pound/day:
• Calcium 3.5% to 6%
• Phosphorus 1.5 to 2.5%
• Ca:P ratio 1.2:1 to 2:1
• Copper minimum 275 ppm
• Zinc minimum 750 ppm
• Manganese maximum 650 ppm
• Selenium about 4 ppm (unless in a high-selenium area).